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New Legislation Improves Protection Of Disabled Workers Under The ADA

Millions of Americans with diseases or impairments such as diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, cancer and carpal tunnel syndrome will be protected from job discrimination under a new disability rights measure set to become law this week. The bill, five years in the making, won final passage in Congress last week, and President Bush said he would sign it.

The measure overturns a series of Supreme Court rulings that sharply limited who was covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act. When it was first passed in 1990, Congress said the anti-discrimination law protected anyone with a "physical or mental impairment" that "substantially limits" them when engaging in a major life activity.
 
The Supreme Court went ahead and interpreted the law to apply only to people who have disabilities above and beyond common impairments such as hearing loss or a medical condition that can be treated and controlled by medication. 

In 1999, the Supreme Court threw out a disability discrimination claim from a truck mechanic in Kansas who was fired because he had unusually high blood pressure. The court ruled that he did not have a disability because medication brought his blood pressure under control.

Due to how the Supreme Court was interpreting the ADA, the law was putting disabled workers in a Catch-22.  It allowed employers to say that the worker were too disabled to do the job but not disabled enough to protected by the ADA.  It was an absurd interpretation that defeated the spirit and intention of the law and was creating absurd and unjust results.  Based on the Court's rulings, the ADA was simply failing to protect disabled workers from employment discrimination. 

Thankfully the law is being changed to ensure that all disabled workers are protected from job discrimination.
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